“I keep going, ‘Why me?’” LeMond told the WSJ.
Very few individual athletes have received the award. Some 450 or so athletes on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal after the U.S. pulled out of the 1980 games, according to the U.S. House of Representatives. But only nine other individual athletes besides LeMond have received the recognition, including historic figures like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson.
The Congressional Gold Medal goes to those “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”
LeMond won the 1986, 1989, and 1990 Tours de France, plus two world championships. Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis both won the Tour — Armstrong seven consecutive times and Landis once — but both men were stripped of their titles. Thus, LeMond is on the record books as the only American Tour de France winner.
LeMond told WSJ that he was humbled by the award.
“I always think that something like this is for people who are saving lives, or inventing cures for new diseases,” he said. “I’m really honored, but at the same time, I don’t take getting awards really well. I always feel like there’s other deserving people.”
The award nomination began two years ago with California Representative Mike Thompson, and other congress members got on board.
LeMond has long been outspoken about doping in cycling and told WSJ that he is more optimistic now about the future.
“This is a whole new era of riding,” LeMond said. “I’m not saying the sport is perfect, but it bodes well when you see [young] talent.”
LeMond was enthusiastic about Tadej Pogačar’s come-from-behind win in the final time trial — so reminiscent of his own final-TT victory over Laurent Fignon to win the 1989 Tour, Gay wrote.
Despite the initial uneasiness with the award, LeMond was happy.
“I didn’t ever expect recognition when I started racing,” LeMond told WSJ. “I just really had a blast. I mean, I was pretty good at it, and it was a whole new world for me. But this? I look at the list of the medal [winners] and I’m going, ‘I’m in really, really good company.’”